by Sam Levin
Last month, a viral ad from the Oakland-based toy company GoldieBlox got even more attention when the Beastie Boys publicly criticized the business for using the group's song without its permission. GoldieBlox, which works to confront gender bias with toys that promote engineering for girls, has since taken down the video, a parody on the Beastie Boys song "Girls." (For example, instead of the Beastie Boys lyric Girls - to do the dishes, the girls in the GoldieBlox video shout Girls - to build the spaceship!).
The legal fight, however, is not over.
Yesterday, the Beastie Boys filed a counterclaim against GoldieBlox, alleging copyright infringement. This move comes two weeks after GoldieBlox posted an open letter to the Beastie Boys on its website, saying it wanted to avoid a legal battle and that it had removed the song from its video. "We don’t want to fight with you," GoldieBlox wrote. "We love you and we are actually huge fans."
The dispute first blew up when GoldieBlox filed a preemptive lawsuit against the Beastie Boys after the band's lawyers allegedly called the Oakland company with threats of potential legal action. The Beastie Boys then responded with an open letter arguing that the video is an advertisement designed to sell a product, adding: "When we tried to simply ask how and why our song “Girls” had been used in your ad without our permission, YOU sued US."
Here's an excerpt from GoldieBlox's original letter, published November 27:
Since actions speak louder than words, we have already removed the song from our video. In addition, we are ready to stop the lawsuit as long as this means we will no longer be under threat from your legal team.
We don’t want to spend our time fighting legal battles. We want to inspire the next generation. We want to be good role models. And we want to be your friends.
And here's an excerpt from the newly filed claim from the band — first reported earlier today by The New York Times — alleging that the toy company saw a huge increase in sales after publishing the "Girls" video:
As part of that systematic campaign of infringement, GoldieBlox has created a series of video advertisements set to well-known songs from popular artists in an effort to achieve the company's primary goals of selling toys....
The GoldieBlox Advertisement featured the Beastie Boys musical composition “Girls” with lyrics modified to become a “jingle” to sell GoldieBlox’s products.
The GoldieBlox Advertisement promptly became a viral hit on the internet, garnering over 8 million views on Youtube.com alone in just ten days. The GoldieBlox Advertisement also received massive coverage in the press, which primarily focused on its apparently, but not in fact, approved use of the Beastie Boys’ song.
Upon information and belief, the publishing of the GoldieBlox Advertisement directly coincided with and directly resulted in a massive increase in the sales of GoldieBlox’s products.
In a statement emailed to the Express today, GoldieBlox's attorney Daralyn Durie, of the Durie Tangri law firm in San Francisco, said: "We are reviewing the document that was filed yesterday. Although the video has been taken down and we would prefer an amicable resolution, we strongly believe that the parody constitutes fair use."